Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Hurricane Child

Hurricane Child Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve year old Caroline, living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was born during a hurricane. Her mother told her the story of her birth to celebrate Caroline; but Caroline later learns from others that a "Hurricane Child" is a curse, "I won't have an inch of luck" and "sadness will follow me wherever I go."

Caroline may seem unlucky: at school, she has no friends, and is even treated poorly by the teachers at school. Her mother left, and after sending postcards, doesn't even do that any longer.

Caroline rejects the label of "unlucky" and decides to take charge of her own life -- and to find her mother. Oh, and she also wants to do something about the ghosts she sees.

In no particular order, what I loved about this book: the depiction of everyday life in the Virgin Islands. The prejudices Caroline faces. How lonely Caroline is. The wonder of her friendship with a new girl in school, Kalinda. How Caroline realizes that she has feelings for Kalinda. The mystery of what happened to Caroline's mother, and that adults are shown with complexity.

I enjoyed this being shown from Caroline's point of view, and as the book went along, how the adults in her life changed -- or rather, how her view of them changed.

And I liked the resolution: about Caroline creating friendships and families.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

The Wall in the Middle of the Book The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, there is a wall in the middle of the book.

I read this as an ebook; I assume that in the print book, the wall is in the middle/gutter of the book.

The person telling the story is on the right; and the reader can see on both sides of the wall, while those in the story cannot. This is a book where the images add to the story, so that the reader sees things the knight doesn't, reaches their own conclusions.

On the left, a knight, repairing the wall and talking about how the wall protects him. On the other side, animals. As the knight talks about the danger on the other side of the wall, and as we see animals and then an ogre, on the knight's side there is water slowly rising -- and the knight doesn't realize at first the danger -- and then some scary, dangerous things in the water.

It's clear that protection the wall provides is an illusion; that the knight sees danger on the other side, ignoring the danger on his own side. It's a children's book -- eventually (spoilers) the knight realizes the danger he is in, is forced to go to the other side, and realizes things are pretty good over there.

One weird observation, though. In making the point that we fear the other; that we don't see the danger in what we are familiar with; that danger can creep up on you; there is also the point that those we fear may be the ones we go to for safety. That we may become the refugees. And... at the end... while the knight was wrong that "the other side" was dangerous, by the end of the story, there is one side of the wall that contains danger (the rising waters and dangerous sea creatures). It's not about two sides wrongly fearing each other; it's about being mistaken about which side to fear.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first few chapters were terrifying.

It's late at night and Ivy, 12, is drawing in her journal. Minutes later, her father is there, rushing her out of her attic room. There's a tornado warning. At first I thought his fear was Ivy is in the attic, and he has to get his family -- his wife, 16 year old daughter, and twin infant sons - to the basement.

Except the basement is a storm cellar, and it's across the yard. And the tornado is right. there.

The family makes it to the storm cellar, and all six are safe. But the house, all they own? Is gone.

This is about Ivy and her family, living through the loss of everything. But Ivy had had loss before this: the addition of her baby brothers changed the family dynamic, and her relationship with her parents have changed. And then there is Layla, her sister, who she trusted and looked up to, until Ivy overheard Layla and her best friend argue -- because the best friend is dating a girl. And now Ivy can't trust her sister, can't talk to her, because Ivy is realizing she doesn't like boys the same way her friends do. It's girls that make her feel that way.

This is a wonderful book: about Ivy finding herself, and finding her friends, and who she can trust. It's Ivy feeling that she is lost and abandoned, because she's lost the family she had before her brothers were born, and she's lost her home, and she thinks she's alone in her feelings and emotions.

This is a beautiful LGBT story for younger readers.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: Riverbend Road

Riverbend Road Riverbend Road by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Things I like about this series and the author: it may sound like I'm making fun, and I kind of am, but honestly, that the backstory is there but not over done is refreshing. It means, also, the reader can bring their own interpretations and depth to it. And, as I think I mentioned, with the books focusing on the "start" of romances, there can be heat but since it doesn't go beyond kissing/making out, this satisfies those who want romances without sex, but don't want Amish or religious romances; they want romances in the real world with real people.

With this book, I realize that every couple so far has had at least one dead parent.

So! She's Wyn (short for Wynona and man suddenly I like this name) and he's Cade, and I also realized her that there was such a lost opportunity because the men in the first 3 books were Aidan, Ben, and Cole.... why wasn't this Dade?

She's a police officer, he's the chief of police, so that means he's her boss, and I really liked how the author handled this, to establish the feelings were consensual and that both were aware of the problems with the power dynamic.

OK! Backstory, which of course also includes some medical stuff because I think that's been almost every book.

Wyn is a police officer, daughter of the former Chief of Police, and it's basically the family business. Her twin brother (police officer) was killed in the line of duty (hit by a car), her father recently passed away. He was shot in the head a couple of years ago, and for two years was in a nursing home because of the traumatic brain injury he suffered.

And Wyn is also a rape survivor. Years ago, in college, she was date raped; she's never told her family, but she did press charges and help the police catch the guy and it's one of the reasons she became a police officer. And what I liked about this is that it's both a big deal and not a big deal. It's part of Wyn but she is still Wyn. She's not broken. Cade is not there to heal her or fix her. She's already fixed herself.

Cade is the only good son from a family that is bad -- his mom died years ago, the rest of the family are basically criminals, including his father, and Wyn's father became a father figure to Cade. One of her brothers is Cade's best friend. Cade is trying to help his own younger brother out, but that brother (while married with kids) also has a drinking problem.

So Cade is attracted to Wyn, and has known her since they were both kids (he's just a handful of years older), so there is a relationship independent from the boss/employee dynamic. Plus, he also feels undeserving, both because he still views himself as "the bad kid from the bad family," and he has SECRETS from the night her father was shot.

Also, I liked the ending here in part because the HEA involves Wyn pursuing her career dreams.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: Evergreen Springs

Evergreen Springs Evergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Devin is the town doctor, sister of McKenzie from the last book. Her backstory is she's a cancer survivor whose treatment included a total hysterectomy. As you may remember, McKenzie is her half sister from her dead father's affair. Don't worry, that part of the backstory really doesn't matter because she and her sister are best friends and cold mom is off on a cruise.

Cole is a former rodeo kinda star, whose a recovering alcoholic who served time for beating someone up pretty badly. His ex-wife just died, and now he has custody of his two kids with her, plus he's running the family ranch, plus his estranged dad shows up wanting a relationship, plus his sister has left her husband because he doesn't want kids and she's having twins. Oh, and she sprained her ankle. Which means she's in the hospital on bed rest.

Oh, and it also turns out that one of the kids may not be his, but don't worry, that part of the backstory doesn't really matter and never really gets mentioned.

He doesn't think he's good enough for her! She's afraid of making connections! Will these two crazy kids make it work?

Weird part of the story that I wonder about: he loves his house in the mountains, she loves hers on the lake, what will happen? Who will move? One fun thing about these books is that the HEA is the couple is together. Yes, the couples in books 1 and 2 show up as engaged and married in these later ones, but books are about the beginnings of relationships and don't rush to marriage & babies just to give the HEA. For example, couple number 2 live in two different states and as of this book, they're a long distance couple. And that's also why it's mainly kissing.

I cannot wait for the next one.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: The Night Diary

The Night Diary The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the author's first book, so was looking forward to this and was not disappointed!

Nisha and her twin brother, Amil, live with their Papa, grandmother Dadi, and their beloved cook, Kazi. Kazi gives her a diary on her twelfth birthday, and every night she writes in it. About her wish for a friend, about her brother's difficulty reading and their father's frustration with that, about how busy their father, a doctor, is, about how she loves to help Kazi in the kitchen, about the loss she feels for her mother, who died when the twins were born.

She also writes about the politics that adults are talking about. It's 1947 and India is about to become independent. It's an exciting time, except that a boundary will drawn between the Hindu part -- India -- and the Muslim part -- Pakistan.

Nisha and their family are Hindus. They live in the section that will be Pakistan.

Nisha tells of how splitting the country and creating a border creates an "us" and "them" that then creates violence. The family has a growing fear that their neighbors will attack them. Nisha's mother was Muslim; Kazi is a Muslim, and Nisha doesn't understand the hate.

The four leave their home behind, and I'll admit: the journey and the difficulties made me want to skip ahead to find out what happens to them, to make sure they are safe. It's a tough journey and it's scary, and their is kindness and cruelty, but it's all at a level that is aware of it's middle school audience.

In addition to an adventure, and a family story, it's also a good portrayal of what happened in India in 1947.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Review: Be Prepared

Be Prepared Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a kid, I loved books about kids going away to camp - I remember reading Laura's Luck by Marilyn Sachs, and now I realize I should reread these books because I didn't realize they were historical fiction.


In this graphic novel, Vera is the poor kid in her group of friends, as well as an immigrant from Russia, so there are funny foods and language issues and all that. One thing she latches onto is all her friends go to camp, why can't she? And then she finds out there is a Russian summer camp!! She imagines camp as some type of always-fun place where she will have all the friends.

Camp isn't what she imagined. Some girls are mean. The toilets are outhouses. Everything is in Russian, and she can speak it but really can't read it.

This is a classic type of story -- Vera finds out more about herself, makes some bad choices, has some unexpected fun.

I'm hoping there is a sequel!

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Thursday, April 04, 2019

Review: Redemption Bay

Redemption Bay Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The meet-cute here is McKenzie and Ben knew each other as teens. Now? She's the mayor of a town that blames Ben for their current financial woes. After his father died, Ben closed down the family boat-building business, the main employer in town. He also inherited a lot of commercial real estate, and left a manager to run them. The properties were neglected, adding to the town problems.

Now he's back! And while the town hates him, they also hope that he may somehow bring back prosperity.

Link to book 1: Hero in book one bought all that property from Ben and is the owner of a tech company, so they are both tech gazillionaires.

Last book had a kid with a heart condition and a hero recovering from brain surgery. The health issues here: Ben's younger sister died from cystic fibrosis as a teen.

Backstories of the main characters that left me going "ok, that's interesting." McKenzie was raised by a single mother, and after her mother died (oh, another health issue, diabetes) McKenzie, about ten, went to live with her father -- who didn't know about her! He's married, with a daughter a couple of years older than McKenzie, and a wife, who, yeah, he was married to when he had an affair with McKenzie's mother. The sisters are close, the mother (stepmother?) is cold to McKenzie -- or at least, not warm. Oh, and McKenzie's mom was Mexican, and McKenzie changed her name from Xochitl Vargas to McKenzie Shaw to fit in better. I KNOW. This last fact in particular is treated as "oh yeah and that happened."

Ben kinda hates his mom because his dad was verbally and emotionally abusive to both of them, but his mom stayed around until his sister died, so Ben has tons of resentment that he pretends he doesn't. BUT it turns out that when Ben's mom was a teenager she slept withe her boyfriend who left town for the army and college so OF COURSE she had to instead marry Ben's dad and pass of Ben as his, and Ben's dad didn't become an asshole to his son until the DNA tests taken because of the sister's CF. Did I mention her reasons included her father being a Baptist minister and helping to raise her younger sisters because her mom had died? (I think cancer, because there are a lot of dead parents who died before the story began: McKenzie's mom and dad, Ben's sister and father, Ben's mother's parents.)

So, does Ben somehow begin to bring prosperity to the town?

Do Ben and McKenzie get together?

Do Ben and his mother reconcile?

Does McKenzie and her stepmother get along?

Yes, yes, yes, no.

These are for readers who want romance with little spice: just kissing.

Final note: despite my wowing the backstories, I am addicted to this series. I want to see how the town pulls out of the economic issues. I want to meet McKenzie's cold but not mean stepmother.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Review: Snow Angel Cove

Snow Angel Cove Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quick, entertaining read but what a weird meet-cute!

Aidan literally knocks Eliza off her feet when his rented SUV skids on ice and hits her, after narrowly missing her five year old. Don't worry, though, it's only bruises and she barely needs ibuprofen after. (It's the type of book where Eliza feels like even that is some weakness, but to give her credit, she realizes later that was a bit too much.)

And Eliza is widowed (long enough ago to be totally ready to fall in love again even though she doesn't want to for reasons). She's also a hotel manager, but she literally moved to town that day, arriving in time to see the place that just hired her go up in flames. Oh, did I mention her daughter's heart condition?

Aidan is a tech billionaire and there is a very light connection to Eliza's dead husband. Enough for Eliza to feel slightly conflicted, all lower case. Oh, and the accident was totally not his fault because ice, black ice, on a patch that the city should have salted or sanded or whatever, plus it was a rental so it's not his fault the tires were terrible.

Will I read the rest of the series? OF COURSE. Haven Point is small town that is dying, and this book seems to be setting up that Aidan, Eliza, and the folks they meet will somehow change the economics of the town. I'll be honest: usually business stuff in books isn't treated very realistically, so I know I should be realistic in my expectations. Still, I love books set in small towns (probably because I don't live in one), and so I am very intrigued in how the series is going to show the town recover.

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